Behind the Business with the Yorkshire Mafia
The business membership advisory and support service provider, the Yorkshire Mafia, attracted this description from the Sunday Telegraph: ’If Facebook is cool, The Yorkshire Mafia is downright dangerous’. Bdaily talks to the co-founder, Geoff Shepherd, and finds out why his organisation is making waves.
In short, what is the Yorkshire Mafia?
It’s a regionally focused business membership advisory and support service. We facilitate business relationships and the sharing of content and expertise by bringing people together online and offline in meaningful numbers. Collectively, members act as an informal signposting and support service for each other. It has all the benefits of a business club but with the acceleration and scale that social media affords.
What’s your own background and how did the idea for the Yorkshire Mafia come about?
I’ve spent most of my career working with high-tech and IT services businesses to find them senior hires across Europe. In 2008 I merged my business with iSource IT, gained a cracking business partner (Sat Mann) and we set about growing our new enterprise. Lots of trains to London later, Sat and I realised that perhaps we should be building our regional network much more. We felt that existing facilities to do that were not for us so we decided to create our own thing. We called it The Yorkshire Mafia. But, we wanted it to be different, free of the pressure to sell and to refer business, free of posturing and speeches and somewhere that was free to join and not just another pay to play gig, but still somewhere that was actively managed and moderated with a high quality filter on everything it did. The Yorkshire Mafia is what we came up with.
How does a business or individual become a member of the Yorkshire Mafia? Is there a danger of diluting what your name implies?
We don’t have businesses that are members. We take individuals on merit not because of who they work for. The process is the same for everyone. We do not have members that are not on LinkedIn. An applicant requests to join via LinkedIn’s platform and we asked him or her for an emailed declaration of interest. We make a decision based on what we receive, their LinkedIn profile and any other information that is available to us.
Your biggest event is the organisation of the Buy Yorkshire conference. How did that event go this year and how do you plan to improve it next year?
The event was a complete smash. It was even bigger than the year before and better: more attendees, higher profile speakers, the BBC covered it, it had a more robust tech platform underpinning it (we had it built specifically) and we introduced an app which replicates the conference and allows delegates to connect with each other – replacing the business card effectively. The app itself rocketed to number 28 in Apple’s App Charts for Business Apps. It’s a real challenge to continually improve the event as it’s already bigger than anything else in the North of England, has a better line-up, attracts more exhibitors and has a much more sophisticated user experience across Smartphone App, registration system, web, badge system and on-boarding. Next year we’ll continue to build the user experience and perhaps bring in more self-serve solutions for attendees – possibly even bringing in some near-field communication solutions. Leeds Business Week is coming (Sept. 2013) – that could well be bigger!
The conference aside, what would you say are the most significant achievements of the Yorkshire Mafia are to date?
On a personal note, I’ve made some lifelong friends through it and so have other people. For me that’s the most rewarding thing. We’ve brought millions of pounds of trading opportunities to the region, we’ve connected thousands of businesses with each other time and time again, we’ve raised the profile of many of members, through the YM thousands of members have found new suppliers, new customers, new partners and had their business problems solved (often at no cost) by other engaged members. The financial impact of all of that has to be in the millions. Everything that runs alongside it (friendships, business relationships, trust, togetherness and so on) is priceless.
What are the biggest challenges the Yorkshire Mafia business faces in the coming year?
There are copycat organisations and competitors. I welcome those. We innovate. push boundaries and take risks. That’s bound to cause a wave of facsimiles. I’ve no problem with competition. Our biggest threat is complacency. That’s why we never sit still, there are a lot of things we want to do and want to be – we’ve really only just got started. However, we’re still a baby in business terms, albeit a very big baby. Every day is a school day and we’re always learning and developing. We have to keep pushing, keep moving forward. Once we stop that, we’re in trouble.
What’s your vision for the Yorkshire Mafia five years from now?
I think anyone with a five-year plan needs to break that down into a detailed 12-24 month plan and then have some increasingly higher level objectives and a lot of in-built flexibility. Can any of us plan five years ahead anymore? This is what we’re looking at: How to move with your customer, talk with your customer, bring your customer into your business, take your business into the community and embed it out there. However, I do believe that in five years businesses that thrive will be businesses that give of themselves to their community.
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Mark Lane .